Short Takes: 03/07

How to manage aggressive cats; some web help; meet the new muse

Managing Aggressive Cats

An article in the November 2006 journal Veterinary Medicine must have been written on Halloween, because it put a fright in us.

“Helping Owners Handle Aggressive Cats” is animal-behavior consultant Wayne Hunthausens advice for veterinarians who counsel concerned cat people who, like us, never knew there were so many reasons for cats to attack. He lists 11 possible types of feline aggression: “Fear-induced, play, redirected, petting-induced, territorial, inter-male, maternal, pain-induced, learned, pathophysiological and idiopathic.”

Idiopathic means theres no known cause, and pathophysiological aggression can sometimes be diagnosed with physical and neurological exams and laboratory tests.

Most other kinds of aggression can be treated by owners who follow the advice of an animal-behavior expert. Dr. Hunthausen recommends a blast of compressed air from a can “directed over a cats head” and says that “owners should avoid punishments such as yelling, thumping or swatting cats since these can cause pets to either fear the owners or engage in rougher play.”

Ultimately, prescribed drugs might be needed to treat severe conditions. But before it gets to that, the veterinarian suggests an alternative: “Play-aggression is one of the few behavior problems for which a second pet may be recommended,” he says.

Cat Stuff on the Web


The Web address for the aforementioned journal is, and some current material is free to anyone visiting there. But unless you subscribe to the journal or use a computer at a library with a subscription getting archival material from many of the journals cited in “Short Takes” can be tough.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners restricts some material on its site,, but other things are free for the downloading including the 43-page “Feline Behavior Guidelines.” That pamphlets “Illustrations of Facial Expressions of Cats” is priceless or certainly worth the price of printing.

With all those caveats, our all-time favorite site for cat people okay, were biased here at Cornell is, the home page of the Cornell Feline Health Center. Check out their new series of instructional videos free, of course such as “Taking Your Cats Temperature.” You might want to watch that one together with the patient before trying your hand.

Meet the New Muse

While were still grieving Gertie, the “Short Takes” muse who departed last year, no home office is complete without a guiding feline. Were pleased to introduce Frannie, age five months when this picture was taken (below), and eight weeks old when she chose us.

Frannie had just been spayed the day before, and she reached out (literally) from her cage at the local animal shelter. Who could resist an appealing paw? After 20 years with a maturing Gertie, wed forgotten how much fun lurks in an energetic kitten.

The illustrated method of weighing a fidgety cat wait til she explores a shopping bag, then put the parcel on the scale is not always accurate. We think she weighs around six pounds. v